The Uber Argument

It’s been quite a while since my last blog, apologies for that. It has been a very busy 1st quarter of 2017 on all fronts. I’m writing this post from Adelaide Airport waiting for a flight home from being away in Perth and Adelaide carrying out some ISO 9001 audits.

During this week I’ve had to get to and from the airports, hotels and work places; a total of 8 trips. Now I have always used the local taxi company for these trips, but recently my son has convinced me to give Uber a try – in his words “you’ll never use a taxi again”. So I thought this week would be a good week to compare the two services and make a determination of which provides the better service.

So I took a total of 9 trips this week. Four in taxis and four with Uber. First, let me talk about the taxi rides.

Taxi:

  • I took a taxi from Perth Airport to work. This was a 20 minute journey and quite a simple journey. The car was reasonably clean and the journey uneventful with a reasonable and comparative cost when comparing to previous trips of the same nature.
  • I picked up a taxi from the hotel the next morning. This was convenient as there was a line of taxi’s outside Crown at 7:30am. This car was pretty dirty inside and the boot and the driver didn’t really know his way around Perth; he consistently made late lane changes to make a turn. When I arrived at work I gave him my credit card to pay only to find out his machine was not working. This meant I had to run into the workplace I was visiting to organise some petty cash to pay for the taxi ride (I rarely carry cash anymore).
  • I took a taxi from my hotel in Adelaide to my workplace the next day. This was a very nice and clean car, good journey and a very good driver. I didn’t realise though that I had stepped into a Premium Taxi – it was just sitting outside my hotel in the morning. Without knowing upfront this journey cost me about 15% extra over a standard taxi. I’m not even sure if this is a legal practice.
  • Finally, I took a taxi from my Adelaide hotel to the airport to go home. This taxi was reasonable inside, however the boot was very dirty and dirtied my luggage. The trip was ok and the driver was a nice guy.

So now to my Uber experiences:

  • On my first day I actually called for a taxi, only to be told there was a 20 minute wait. I decided to heed my son’s suggestion and open the Uber app on my phone. Very quickly I found it would be less than 5 minutes to wait for an Uber, so I booked it. The driver arrived on time (a great feature of the app is you are able to track the car via GPS). The car was spotless inside and out and the driver very professionally dressed in a suit.
  • The next day I booked an Uber to travel from work to the airport. The first of my comparable journeys so I could also assess the pricing of both. Again, the driver was 3 minutes away; the vehicle spotless and driver well-presented and professional. Interestingly, the reverse journey was around 40% cheaper than the taxi the day earlier.
  • I booked an Uber from Adelaide Airport to my hotel. I found the airport pick up a little clumsy compared to a taxi. There is always a line of taxis at every airport; you simply get in a line and a taxi picks you up. With the Uber I had to stand at the general pick up area and look out for a car and person I wasn’t familiar with and catch their attention before they drove past. I ended up calling and messaging them via the app. This journey another price comparison with the taxi being the cheaper option by around 30%.
  • I booked an Uber from work to the Hotel in Adelaide. Again, the Uber arrived in less than 5 minutes and again was spotless inside and out. This journey in peak hour was around 50% less than the earlier Premium Taxi in the reverse direction.

So there we have it, 8 trips – 4 taxis and 4 Uber. The verdict?

Before I get to the verdict let’s just take a quick look at some of the strengths and weaknesses of both. I’ll do this by looking at some categories.

Customer service:

Of course I will start with customer service, my favourite business indicator. By far the Uber experience was superior to that of the taxis; with the notable exception of the Premium Taxi. The Uber experience was simply better on all fronts; easier to book, and they are on time. Cleaner vehicles by far, both inside and out. And the drives dressed and performed more professionally.

Cost:

This is an interesting category. There were three opportunities for price comparison with Uber coming out cheaper on two of those occasions. Overall over the three comparison journeys, Uber was a total of $40 cheaper.

Ease of use:

In this category I’m looking a bit deeper into one of the customer service aspects. If you’re at a location where taxis wait for customers i.e. an airport, a hotel etc. then a taxi is probably an easier choice. I would say from an airport, then a taxi is far easier.

So now to the verdict. I think there is a place for both services; taxis have a convenience factor and Uber provides a better user experience and can be better value for money. Right across Australia, the taxi industry is fighting against Uber, but they are fighting a bad fight. Rather than strike, hold traffic stoppages on major routes and protesting; why don’t they wash their cars, vacuum them out, put on a nice suit and provide the same level of service that Uber does? If they did this 5 years ago, Uber wouldn’t have had the same opportunities and competitive advantage that it did on its entry. If they go and do it now, they can limit the losses. If they don’t change anything and continue with the arguments they will slowly become obsolete…

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